The produced educational material supports a unit on Web 2.0 technologies, as part of the optional course unit ‘Web applications’ which is included in the Italian National Curriculum of secondary education. The targeted audience is 16-17 year-old students, who have basic ICT skills, including web-navigation, downloading and uploading files and file management. In addition, the targeted students have experience in CMS such as Moodle since they are using it for most of their course units. The face-to-face sessions are held once a week for 1 and a half hour.
2. Explaining choice of technologies As a group we decided to use Moodle which was compulsory for our course and blog, which we thought was an emerging technology appropriate for our educational aims. Moodle is a free CMC, based on the social constructivist pedagogy. It is easy to use and customize, with readily available documentation and consistent method for online content and communication.
The fact that it addresses limited people, is not searchable on the net and needs authentication most of the times makes it more secure, but at the same time limits communication with broader audiences. However, it is a social networking tool with features such as calendar and personal content space and allows many resource tools to be added, such as documents and web links. It also provides tools which allow users to create activities such as discussion forums and quizzes and offers a place to the students to submit their assignments, either group or individual. For our group’s purpose Moodle was an effective learning environment and useful to build our classroom’s learning-space, since it allowed us to include chat tools, forums and recourses.
Given the fact that Web 2.0. Technologies was the subject of the educational materials we would prepare, we thought that it was appropriate to use blog not only for its positive educational implications but also because it is a Web 2.0. Technology itself. With the recent evolution of Web 2.0 technologies, blogs have been increasingly used in education. Schools should adapt them so that students can discuss about their modules and research, can share good piece of information with other students, create online communities and develop a feeling of involvement (Richardson 2006).
The literature (Downes 2004; Duffy and Burns 2006; Educause Learning Initiative 2005; Farmer and Barlett- Bragg 2005; Mortesen and Walker 2002; Richardson 2006; Weiler 2003; Weller et al. 2005) stresses that the main educational advantages of blogs are the following: they are simple to use; they are easy to create and modify; they can improve writing skills; they can promote creativity and critical thinking; and they can foster collaboration and sharing of knowledge. We thought that with the use of the course unit’s blog and the engagement of the students in the creation of their own group blogs, these educational potentials could be reached.
We decided to use Blogger as our blogging space (http://ma-ict.blogspo t.com/) since it is free, easy to use offering tutorials and support and has no commercials something which was one of our main concerns since we wanted to use it for educational purposes. Moreover, we wanted our blog to be used only by our students and this is something that was offered in Blogger.
3. Rationale behind the material
Technology has become an indispensable tool in the life of today’s students. Prensky (2001) describes them as digital natives who have functioned in a digital environment for most of their lives. This net generation of students (Roberts, 2005, cited in Thompson, 2007) arrives at school and universities having acquired an advanced set of ICT skills and literacies; therefore in the light of rapid expansion of the technology, the students’ learning expectations have increased and should be anticipated by the educators.
The evolution of Web 2.0 has situated learning far beyond the classroom walls, giving the opportunity to students to reach knowledge through their participation in communities of practice (Anderson, 2007; Downes, 2005, cited in Thompson, 2007; Richardson, 2006; Wunsch-Vincent and Vickery, 2007). Justifiably, the educational sector commenced considering and exploring the participative potential of Web 2.0.
A considerable number of higher institutions are already implementing Web 2.0 applications in different ways while schools have just begun integrating them into the curricula. This is what motivated us in creating this educational material on Web 2.0 technologies for secondary students who might have experienced these technologies in an informal learning context but not in a formal one. Our intention is to inform them of the affordances of Web 2.0 applications, to engage them into practical activities and to raise questions related to security, privacy, content quality and copyright issues.
The reasons that prompt us to acknowledge Web 2.0 technologies as powerful learning tool are the ease of use and the freedom to share. Creating and adding web content is now in the province of the basic ICT skilled persons giving them the chance to participate in Web 2.0 not only as passive readers, but also as active authors and critical editors. Moreover, people can share information, knowledge, culture and entertainment within communities of common interests.
The constructionist and collaborative nature of Web 2.0 technologies guided us to develop our material based on the constructivist and socio-cultural learning theory (Alessi and Trollip, 2001; Crook, 1994; Doolittle, 1999), where knowledge is actively constructed by the learner and not passively received from the teacher, through social interaction and collaboration with peers. In order to incorporate the aforementioned principles in the creation process of our material, we followed basic pedagogical recommendations (Alessi and Trollip, 2001; Doolittle, 1999) as to establish an effective learning environment:
Knowledge construction upon the learners’ prior knowledge: Learners incorporate new ideas and concepts into already existing frameworks in their mind through processes of accommodation and assimilation. Taking into consideration our learners’ age, we assumed that they would have already acquired basic ICT skills, mainly web-navigational ones that they would enable them to construct the new knowledge related to Web 2.0.
Use discovery or guided discovery approaches: Learners explore, experiment, research, ask questions and seek answers (Alessi and Trollip, 2001). The material that we have produced is supportive to the classroom’s teaching rather than instructional. It provides students with useful resources (journal entries on Web 2.0, readings, useful links, videos, tutorials) and discussion forums where they can retrieve information on the topic they are interested in.